Analysis: The media ups the price of the Schalit deal

The abducted IDF reservists' story was easy to sell as the public was so moved by the families' plight.

press media photographer (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
press media photographer
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The media's role in last week's prisoner exchange with Hizbullah was to pander to the lowest common denominator, because the public is very emotional. The story of the supposedly abducted IDF reservists was easy to sell because the public was very moved by the families of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, particularly as pertains to Goldwasser's wife, Karnit. They used the media to put pressure on the government to agree to the exchange. It is also clear that the Israeli media had an agenda. Usually you expect the media to present a debate - to present facts from both sides of an issue. In this case the media was unified. That's why I say they had an agenda. Even though my heart was with the families, I think the media pressured the government to do something that was against the national interests of Israel. I believe we will pay for it with Gilad Schalit, that as a consequence Israel will have to give up a lot more prisoners to bring him back than would have otherwise been the case. The media used the families, and the families used the media to get their message across. They put disproportionate pressure on the government and left it no choice but to surrender to the demands of Hizbullah. The families knew that they had an emotional story that the media would be interested in, and they used a PR campaign to get into the media again and again to pressure the government to obtain the soldiers' release. The media are interested in a certain kind of story - an emotional, colorful one. That's why they focused on one family, and mostly on the wife of one of the soldiers. Karnit Goldwasser is young and pretty. She became a symbol for the struggle of the families against the government to comply with the Hizbullah demands. As for a deal for Gilad Schalit, it is lucky for me that I don't have to call the shots. Thousands of terrorists who blew up cafes and restaurants, mass murderers, are in jail now. Unless the government frees them, which it probably won't, every once in a while Hamas will try to kidnap soldiers or civilians to reach an agreement and free more terrorists. I wouldn't say that the media's behavior has put more soldiers at risk, but they did force the government to do something that might cause more kidnapping. If you are Hamas, you see how the process goes. You kidnap, and they release murderers, even just for bodies. For live soldiers the government would release hundreds of murderers. That might be Hamas's assumption, and it might be a correct one. Yariv Ben-Eliezer, professor of communication at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, was interviewed by Daniel Kuhn.